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Startup Provides NB-IoT Reindeer Ear Tag for Real-Time Location

Herders are testing a solution from Anicare that provides location data about the animals as they graze and migrate through the forests of Finland, thereby preventing unnecessary loss of livestock if they wander away from the herd or stop moving.
By Claire Swedberg
May 17, 2019

Finnish technology startup Anicare is providing its Healtag tracker to be attached to the ears of reindeer so their movements can be tracked across Finland for as long as five years. The solution employs Nordic Semiconductor's Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled tag, which is built into an ear tag that can be attached to an animal's ear flap. The tag transmits its unique ID number, along with location data, via what is called narrowband IoT (NB-IoT), a low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) for cellular devices.

The system employs a cellular connection to Anicare's cloud-based server in order to enable users to not only see where animals are but when they may require assistance, based on their lack of movement. Anicare also offers an app so that a herder can access data regardless of where he or she is located.

Anicare was launched in 2012 to help reindeer herders manage their animals. Reindeer are livestock, but they pasture for most of the year in unconfined forests without any human oversight. This exposes them to various hazards. Although reindeer move in herds, some become separated from their group. Because the forests are vast and remote, herders may never know what became of a lost animal. If it falls ill, is attacked by a predator, is otherwise injured or dies in the forest, the animal is often never found.

Aki Marttila
Aki Marttila, the company's founder, says he came upon dead reindeer in the forest and wondered if there might be a technology-based solution to the problem. "I own reindeer myself," he explains, "and I'm part of the Reindeer Society, [the Reindeer Herders' Association (RHDA)], so I started to think it might be possible to make a device" from which all herders could benefit.

Some reindeer already wear GPS collars, and have done so since 2009. However, Marttila says, such devices can cost around €600 ($784) apiece. The battery life is typically about a year, meaning herders would need to change the battery on any given animal's device multiple times throughout its life. That requires catching each animal and handling its collar, which creates stress for both the reindeer and its owner. The GPS transmitters are also heavy, due to the batteries needed and the size of the radio hardware.

For that reason, they must be applied to a collar rather than being attached more discretely to the ear. But Marttila argues that putting collars on reindeer isn't desirable for several reasons, including aesthetics. Tourists often come to see the reindeer, he notes, adding, "Really bright colored and wide collars on reindeers don't give a very good experience for tourists" who hope to see wild animals, not reindeer in "dog collars." He adds, "From this point of view, I wanted to offer a product that fits into reindeers' ears where they are not so visible," and that won't pose any potential harm.

USER COMMENTS

Jerome Gouatarbes 2019-05-24 02:20:38 AM
I've seen recently another startup of this type within another harsh environnements in Australia using e-peas energy harvesters...Are the environnement constraints the same ?? Regards, J

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